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There's Bob May in the desert sun, not doing much, simply hitting balls at the far end of the range at the TPC at Summerlin, feeling the heat on his back, happy to be swinging a club again. Here's Bill Lunde, a Nationwide tour player, stopping to say hello, and naturally he asks the question that everyone asks: "How's the back?" And May says what he's been saying for months: "It's getting there. Getting better." � Here's Bob May on your television set, taking Tiger Woods to a three-hole playoff at the 2000 PGA Championship, draining clutch putts, stiffing irons and always, every single time, finishing a heroic second. � Here's Bob May at his physical therapist's office, lying on an examining table while a man in a white lab coat twists one leg this way, the other leg that way, measuring the golfer's flexibility with a large protractor. The therapist then has May sit up, and he taps May's knees with a rubber hammer and runs a tool that looks like a tiny pizza cutter over his feet as he dictates his conclusions to an assistant writing on a clipboard. May, with his eyes closed, stands on one leg, then the other. All the while, the therapist asks questions.
"How are you hitting them?"
"Sleep has not been good. Restless. Poor to fair. I have a hard time getting comfortable."
"After all you've been through, what's your Number 1 complaint?"
"Tightness and soreness in the hip and groin area. It moves around. If I don't play golf, I'm usually not irritated. If I play golf or practice, that night I'm going to be sore."
Here's Bob May in his car, driving to meet his wife, Brenda, and his seven-year-old son, Trenton, at a barbecue joint near their home in the northwest suburbs of Las Vegas. "People think I came out of nowhere," he says, alluding to his famous tussle with Tiger at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville. "I don't see it that way. I was ranked in the top 50. I'd been successful on the European tour. Golf fanatics knew about me--I was the American they followed on the Golf Channel every morning before they went to work." Heading into that PGA, he points out, he had played well--second at Memphis, 21st at the U.S. Open, and he was only a year downstream from his victory at the 1999 British Masters. Without a doubt May could play.
Here's Bob May at the door to the restaurant, describing the soreness he feels after a practice session: "There's a knot in my back, like I have a cellphone tucked inside my belt."
That is nothing compared with the pain he felt last April when he woke up in the surgical recovery room at St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, Calif. "The nurse recommended morphine," he recalls, "and I said no. But at 12 that night I was screaming for something." (They gave him Vicodin and a muscle relaxer.) Now he has only stiffness and soreness, but May can't help worrying that his passion--golf--will become his punishment. "I've had doctors tell me the golf swing is brutal," he says. "It's a violent, twisting motion, and the spine's not made for that."